It’s no secret that processed foods are not the best choices for a healthy diet, but just how much can those frozen dinners really harm us?
A recent study says they can actually take years off of our lives.
The study looked at 44,551 men and women over eight years.
“What the study found, was that consumption of ultra-processed foods, on a regular basis, significantly increased all-cause mortality,” said Lindsay Malone, RD of Cleveland Clinic who did not take part in the study. “This is typically going to refer to things like heart disease, or complications from obesity or diabetes.”
In fact, researchers found that people who ate 10 percent more ultra-processed foods, meaning foods that contain a lot of additives and have a long shelf-life, had a 14 percent increased risk of death.
Malone said it’s important for people to know convenient does not have to mean processed, and that we have to distinguish processed foods from things like frozen fruits and vegetables.
Frozen fruits and veggies are healthy and are a great convenient option for a healthy diet, whereas items such as frozen entrees are full of ingredients our bodies do not need.
“Foods that have several ingredients – ingredients that you wouldn’t recognize in your own kitchen cabinets – such as chicken nuggets, muffins, crackers, made from white flour; are typically processed with a lot of added salt, sugar, and unhealthy fats.”
Malone said the key is to eat foods like frozen meals or packaged snack crackers only in situations when there really is no other option.
She said we can find what is needed for a healthy recipe right in our grocery store, but we just have to pay close attention to the ingredients.
“If you’re looking for convenience, try and stick to three ingredients or less, and things that you would recognize or be able to find in your own kitchen,” said Malone.
Complete results of the study can be found in JAMA Internal medicine.